Oklahoma will receive more than $1 million over the next three years to help prevent prescription drug overdoses and address patient and prescribing behaviors that drive it, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday.
The CDC grant will help state agencies work together to improve the state’s prescription drug monitoring program and also analyze data to identify prescription drug abuse hot spots, among other trends.
“Prescription drug abuse is a scourge that has overtaken drugs like meth when it comes to harming the health of Oklahomans,” Gov. Mary Fallin said. “These additional resources will help us continue to strengthen successful state programs and ultimately save lives.”
Oklahoma has the sixth-highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the United States, according to the CDC.
In 2011, the state had about 19 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 people, with 703 people dying that year from drug overdose. The U.S. rate was about 13 deaths per 100,000 people.
Additionally, opioid prescribing rates in Oklahoma are among the highest in the country, according to the CDC.
In 2012, Oklahoma providers wrote 128 opioid pain reliever prescriptions per 100 people, the fifth-highest prescribing rate in the country and far above the U.S. rate of 83 prescriptions per 100 people.
The CDC announced Thursday that Oklahoma joins four other states — Kentucky, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia — who will receive money to improve their prescription drug monitoring programs and conduct rigorous state policy evaluations.
Oklahoma’s prescription drug monitoring program is one of the few in the nation that updates in real time.
State health commissioner Terry Cline said the money will be used to improve that program, making it easier to analyze the data and share it with state agencies and physicians.
Cline said the state Health Department will use this money to respond to a public health crisis — prescription drug abuse — as they would with a flu or virus outbreak.
“CDC has declared the misuse of prescription drugs and associated deaths as a public health epidemic in our country,” Cline said. “Oklahoma has one of the highest overdose death rates and one of the highest overprescribing rates in the country. This grant from CDC will allow us to better utilize the prescription drug monitoring program, which we know is one of the most effective clinical tools for appropriate prescribing that is available.”
A recent law change in Oklahoma has allowed the Health Department and the state Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Department to have access to data from the state drug monitoring program.
Terri White, the state mental health commissioner, said this money will allow the agencies to work together to take the large amount of data available through the drug program and implement preventive strategies in communities with high rates of abuse.
The money also will be used to find Medicaid recipients who might be abusing prescription drugs and also doctors with questionable prescribing behaviors, White said.
“The most exciting part of the grant is — we have articulated the vision of the advancements and accomplishments we can make now that we’re sharing data from the prescription drug monitoring system with the department of mental health and also the public health department,” White said. “It’s exciting we will have resources to invest and support this vision.”